One of the best ways to protect your home’s air quality is by keeping houseplants around. We wrote a post about this a few months ago – as it turns out, even NASA believes having plants in your home will go a long way towards cleaning indoor air. Plants act as filters – they help to remove some of the common indoor pollutants we run into on a daily basis, while providing clean oxygen as part of their photosynthesis process.
But when the weather turns cold and sunlight is reduced by a few hours, even well kept houseplants can suffer. Winter is a tough time for plants, and homeowners sometimes forget that the changing season can mean that a change in plant care is also necessary. What can you do to keep your indoor plants healthy during the colder, darker months?
Location, Location, Location
Plants need plenty of sunlight in order to thrive during the winter months. Even low-light plants will need to have some access to light in order to survive. This means you may need to move plants around on a seasonal basis. If this is your first winter with plants, you may have to go through some trial and error to find locations that work. Just watch your plants – if leaves start to turn brown and the plant looks “sad”, it might be in the wrong location.
Some households just don’t get enough sunlight during the winter months to keep plants happy. In this case, investing in a grow light can work wonders. They’re readily available from big box stores or online shopping sites. A couple of hours a day with this sort of light should perk up plants that aren’t getting enough sun.
The easies way to kill indoor plants during the winter is by overwatering. As the weather cools and light becomes scarcer, many plants shift into a resting period in which they may not actively grow as much as they do during other seasons. Some plants may not grow at all. This means they don’t require the same resources that they needed in the spring and summer.
When shifting to a winter watering schedule make sure you let the soil go completely dry before you water your plants. Be gentle as you water, letting a little liquid soak in before adding more. This way you provide moisture without overwhelming the plant.
Keep Them Comfortable & Away From Vents
Indoor plants can also be sensitive to temperature and humidity changes in the environment, which means keeping a careful eye on their health. It’s important to remember that cold air sinks while warm air rises – if temperatures drop too low, plants left on bare floors like concrete or tile may get too cold, which can shock roots. If a plant is located in a part of the house routinely dropping to 50° F, that’s very likely too cold – keep them somewhere with temperatures in the high 60s – low 70s.
HVAC vents can cause some trouble for plants as well. Forced air heating tends to cause drops in humidity, and most plants prefer humid environments. Make sure your houseplants are not too close to blowing air and give them a little mist now and again to make sure they are getting the atmospheric water they need.
Watch the Fertilizer
Because plants tend to slow down in the winter months, there is no reason to continue fertilizing them on a regular basis. However, because we are living in a mild climate, it is possible that you could have an indoor plant that continues to be a prolific grower year-round. If you have a plant that is clearly growing as normal, then fertilizer is ok – just be careful not to overdo it.
Don’t Repot In Winter
Winter is not an ideal time for repotting plants. For plants that have slowed their metabolism to deal with the cold, repotting could mean a shock to the roots that could either drastically impact its health or kill the plant entirely. It’s best to wait until spring for this type of care.
There is an exception – woody plants, such as small trees, that have gone completely dormant. If you have a houseplant that appears to die off in winter and come back again in spring, then it is going through full dormancy to survive. If this is the case, it’s ok to repot the plant during the winter, just be gentle.